Tue, Jun 07, 2016 - Page 3 News List

EPA’s Lee to turn agency into full-fledged ministry

SUBSTITUTION:The agency will ask the power sector to use Australian coal, which has low sulfur content, EPA Minsiter Lee Ying-yuan said in a radio interview

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Environmental groups in Changhua County yesterday demand the government pass a law to ban the operation of coal-fired power stations in the county.

Photo: Chang Tsung-chiu, Taipei Times

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) yesterday said that he is planning to transform the agency into a higher-ranking “ministry of environment and resources” in 18 months.

In a radio interview hosted by independent journalist and filmmaker Kevin Lee (李惠仁), the minister reiterated his policies of air pollution remediation, soil contamination solutions and illegal dumping prevention.

“The EPA is no longer the ‘submissive daughter-in-law’ under the [now defunct] Department of Health and the agency should get rid of the traditional mindset to deal with increasingly diversified environmental issues. I will push for legislation authorizing the establishment of a ‘ministry of environment and resources’ within a year and establish the ministry in 18 months,” Lee Ying-yuan said.

Kevin Lee said air pollution is the issue that concerns the public most, as more than 100 questions sent by Internet users asked about measures to ease air pollution.

“It is ridiculous that the public cannot breathe clean air. We plan to make the six-year Clean Air Program approved by the former administration a four-year project. The EPA will allocate an air pollution fund of NT$30 billion [US$925.9 million] to reduce ‘red level’ incidents by 20 percent in two years and by half in four years,” Lee Ying-yuan said.

According to the EPA’s four-color categorization of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter — “red” is the second-most severe level, corresponding to PM2.5 levels of 59 to 64 micrograms per cubic meter.

The EPA will ask the power sector to increase the use of Australian coal, which has lower sulfur content and is more environmentally friendly, despite lower energy content, he said.

The agency will also encourage factories to replace crude oil with diesel, because crude oil generates several hundred times more sulfides, Lee Ying-yuan said.

While EPA Deputy Minister Thomas Chan (詹順貴) said that a rejected Yulin County ban on bituminous coal might be accepted if the wholesale ban was revised to a partial restriction, Lee Ying-yuan said that the ban was rejected on the ground that it involved national energy management and was within the Bureau of Energy’s jurisdiction.

Lee Ying-yuan said the problem of farm contamination stems from electroplating plants, whose wastewater was on many occasions found to pollute farmland, and the problem could not be solved without removing electroplating plants from farms.

The agency will set up industry parks to separate farms from polluting industries, he said.

The minister also said he had negotiated with the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office to investigate illegal dumping of industrial waste, and mostly notably, of slag, because he suspected that licensed recyclers have colluded with illegal reprocessors, adding that efforts depend on public participation to crack down on illegal dumping.

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